In January, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation to protect native bees and honeybees from pesticide exposure.

The new bill requires people who spray pesticides to notify keepers of honeybees and native bees when they are applying pesticide within three miles of a registered beehive.

This means that beekeepers who register their hives with the state of New Jersey have the opportunity to protect their bees when neonicotinoids (“neonics”) and other pesticides are sprayed nearby. Assembly Bill A-3400 will also require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to establish an educational course on pesticides’ effects on bees for pesticide-spraying professionals.

That training can’t come soon enough. Nationwide, honeybee deaths average 33 percent per year, but New Jersey lost 41 percent of its honeybee population in 2017. Native bees, including bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees and more, are also under duress.

“This decline in our bee population threatens food production and the livelihood of our farmers,” said a co-sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro.

Bees pollinate crops and flowers across New Jersey, so the Garden State is one of a growing number of states passing legislation meant to protect bees and other pollinators. Last year, Maryland banned the private sale of bee-harming neonics, and two weeks ago the state of California announced that it will no longer let pesticide companies expand use of bee-killing neonics in the state.

The next step in New Jersey is not simply to warn beekeepers of the use of these pesticides, but to institute a ban that will fully protect bees and other pollinators — which in turn will protect the people of New Jersey.